Artificial Sportsfields Popular

9 July 2012

Our new artificial turfs are proving to be a winner with football and rugby players across the city.

Old Boys University Under 6s (the Wilsons) enjoy the artificial turf at Te Whaea

Old Boys University Under 6s (the Wilsons) enjoy the artificial turf at Te Whaea

The new fields are having an overwhelming positive impact on winter sports - resulting in fewer cancelled games and more training and playing time.

They have also taken the pressure off our grass fields, allowing us to keep them in better condition for weekend games. For example, grass fields were having to cope with six games a weekend before we installed the artificial turfs - now it's more like three games.

Clubs in both codes, and at all levels, are getting more time on the pitch. Teams are even training in early mornings with some competition games, especially for junior grades, being played on Friday nights. This can be a bonus for parents, who then do not have to get up early for an 8.00am kick-off on Saturday morning.

"The artificial turfs have really changed the face of all sports in Wellington," says the Council's Acting Manager of Sportsfields Operations, Julian Emeny.

"The turf at Wellington College is a good example. When it was a grass field, because it was fairly wet and boggy, it was being used two hours a week. Now it's being used 100 hours a week."

The first all-weather turf was installed at Nairnville Park in Khandallah in 2009. Since then, turfs have been put in at Te Whaea in Newtown, Wakefield Park in Island Bay and Wellington College, a partnership in which the Council and college shared the costs. The turf is used for college and community sports.

We have plans to install others at St Patrick's College Kilbirnie (a partnership project), due to open in April 2013, and Alex Moore Park in Johnsonville, due to open in April 2014.

Wellington Rugby Football Union's manager of amateur rugby Will Caccia-Birch says the artificial fields have been "hugely significant", providing certainty in delivering games and helping in player recruitment with some clubs reporting 25 percent growth this season.

Will says the artificial turfs allowed 32 games of senior and junior rugby to be played on one field in just three days.

"Apart from the last couple of weeks, where we have had some individual grade cancellations due to adverse weather, this season we have yet to make any blanket cancellations across all grades," says Will.

"We are also able to get some night rugby in on Thursdays and Fridays for both junior and senior age grades, which helps alleviate pressure on grounds over the weekend."

Cliff Bowden, Game Development Manager at Capital Football, says all-weather fields mean better quality training and higher skill levels but the best thing is fewer cancellations.

During one week in July 2011, two artificial sportsfields at Wakefield Park were used for 134 hours - more than two natural grass fields at Wakefield Park managed in five months the previous winter.

"Juniors and women's football have benefited greatly," Cliff says. "Traditionally, games for juniors have been played Saturday morning.

"At Nairnville, games are now played right throughout the day from 9.00am to 6.00pm plus Friday nights."